At first glance the CC50 looks like a fairly standard, albeit eye-catching electric guitar. It’s solid, has a standard scale length at 25.5” with Seymour Duncans in the bridge and neck. Make sure you give yourself a moment to take in the striped ebony top that covers the alder body. It’s beautiful. It’s a very rich wood and the stain draws your eyes to it and puts the CC50 into a league of its own, even before strumming a chord. Amplified, the guitar rocks. Partly thanks to the Seymour Duncan Hotrails, whose midrange bite and attack make for an aggressive bark that demands attention, but also the alder body, a wood with tonal characteristics that push those mids just a little further. The solid alder body produces a controlled, balanced resonance that is only amplified, emphasised and controlled by the Hotrails themselves. The CC50 features a single pickup in the neck, and a slanted pickup in the bridge to ensure the guitar still has some semblance of that classic Telecaster sound. Split the coil and you’re playing a Strat, but with that bite of the Hotrails. The pickup switching options, coupled with push/pull pots to split the coils make for a huge range of tonal options, colours and textures.
The Hybrid 55, on the other hand, takes this a step further. Its a 25.5”, 22 fret chambered electric guitar. In addition to pickup selector and push/pull volume and tone pots, there’s a second toggle and extra pot located between the tone pot and strap button. Beneath the flame maple top covering the Korina wood body is a Fishman Powerbridge, a Piezo pickup conventionally installed in the bridge of a guitar. This makes the Hybrid 55 a very diverse and dynamic instrument. Admittedly, because of all the routing options in the Hybrid 55, it makes the instrument fairly good at a bunch of different sounds, but doesn’t have a specific colour or sound of its own. You can blend between the Fishman acoustic sound, or the Rockfield humbuckers that, again, come as standard. The Fishman really does a phenomenal job of turning your electric into a guitar with the timbre and tone of an acoustic guitar. There’s a spank that you get only get from an acoustic and a little more string noise. Blended, the tone is thick, forward and resonant. Both guitars are really balanced, nicely weighted and very well built. They’re comfortable and sit nicely against the body, especially when sitting. The modern-C necks feel great, and neither are particularly fast but you don’t need super fast necks for these style of guitars.
Head to toe, both the Hybrid 55 and CC50 Deluxe are great guitars. The CC50 features two humbucking pickups with a four-way switch and both volume and tone knobs wired for push/pull. This gives you twelve possible sounds even before the signal has hit your amp. It’s never been easier to get the sound right at the source, and all on the one guitar. The bolt-on maple neck features Michael Kelly’s ‘1950’ headstock and a dual action truss rod which can be accessed right above the bone nut but below the die cast tuning pegs. The Hybrid’s neck feels just as good, with 22 medium jumbo frets embedded in the pau ferro fingerboard and maple neck. The headstock is Michael Kelly’s 1950 style again, but with a Bird’s Eye Maple Top. Another bone nut secures the strings and scale.
Overall, these are two guitars in a huge range of well-made instruments by Michael Kelly. Builds aside, the guitar are packed with features and little additions to electronics that really make these a force to be reckoned with. Gone are the days of swapping out guitars throughout a set for different tones and sounds, and they’re an all-in-one option for recording as well. Both guitars feature third-party pickups as standard, and have a multitude of routing options in push/pull pots and pickup selectors, even besides the Fishman Piezo system routed into the Hybrid 55. The guitars play well, hold tune and feel solid while playing. The necks inspire great rock riffs and licks, and the resonant tones pulled from the Hybrid 55 fill a mix like nothing else. Michael Kelly Guitars’ instruments are an ocean of innovation and these two stellar examples are just the tip of the iceberg.